MedievalBooksOfHours

Les Enluminures

5. “Obsecro te” and “O intemerata”

There are two special prayers to the Virgin that appear in nearly all Books of Hours. They are known by their incipits (opening words): “Obsecro te” (I beseech you) and “O intemerata” (O immaculate Virgin). Written in the first person singular, the prayers address the Virgin directly in especially plaintive tones. They are among the most moving of all prayers in Books of Hours and encapsulate the essence of late medieval spirituality, especially as it relates to the cult of the Virgin and her role in one's personal salvation.

Changes in person in the Latin sometimes allow us to know whether a man or a woman used the book; if the use is in the masculine (the norm), it does not necessarily mean that the text was written for a man, but if the use is in the feminine it is likely the standard model was adjusted for a female patron or reader.